The cruise from Brisbane to New Caledonia/Fiji/Vanuatu was out 10th cruise. We boarded at the Brisbane cruise ship terminal in about an hour and were able to go straight to our veranda cabin.
That was our first negative. The veranda by modern standards was tiny and boxed in by the frame. The bathroom was so cramped you have to sit sideways on the toilet and the air conditioning wasn't working. The bed was rock hard and there was only one chair. It was, however, spotlessly clean and the carpet new. A case of excellent staff compensating for problems inherent in the 18 year ship design. The air conditioning was fixed but then was icy cold for the rest of the cruise. We just wore sweaters in the cabin even though it was over 30 outside.
We then went to the Horizon cafeteria for lunch. The comedienne dubbed this the "Horror Zone" (Horizon, get it ? ) but she was wrong. The food was pretty good -- better than Royal Caribbean's Windjammer for example but not as good as Celebrity.
The sail away music then began. The Calypso/Reggae band "Passion" was the highlight of the cruise. Everything from "Island in the Sun" to "The great pretender" to "Sweet Home Alabama" that we requested they performed brilliantly. The moved from the pool deck to various lounges and the atrium for balloon night. Always fun, always musical they were the highlight of the cruise. The classical trio was also very good and also had a great repertoire.
The other pleasant surprise was the food in the main dining room. Once again, Princess had messed up not sitting us with our travel companions. That was corrected and we were moved to a completely different table with them and 6 other people. Our new group was as good as the one we were moved from and the food and service excellent. We even got lobster on one formal night. Once again the ship's staff had compensated for the Cruise company.
Shore excursions were a bit limited. In Noumea we did our own thing although the cruise ship did provide a shuttle. The locals are not very motivated by the 2000+ passengers and don't make any effort at all. This is in stark contrast to Fiji -- Suva and Port Denarau. The welcoming music, the enthusiastic taxi drivers the full marching band to send us off was all very enjoyable. We did a catamaran/island excursion at Port Denarau and I was very disappointed to find the catamaran was not a sailing vessel but just the same commuter twin hulled ferry that was being offered free to Port Denarau. The island had suffered cyclone damage and had virtually no shade but they did their best and the food, entertainment and snorkelling were good. I paid extra for a certified SCUBA dive.
We also went snorkeling at the Ilse of Pines and I did the certified wreck dive at Vila, Vanuatu. The Ilse of Pines is very beautiful although it does require a tender.
We got back to Brisbane after 11 days of perfect weather. Just 8 hours later the whole of Queensland's coast -- including where we had been -- was battered by cyclones, mini tornadoes and floods. The Brisbane River that we had sailed into was flooded and our table companions from Bundaberg went home to massive flood damage. We were very lucky but upset that our new friends had to return to such a disaster.
All in all, this cruise was different from the other cruises we have been on where Australians are in the minority. The joke that cruising is for "the newly wed, over fed and nearly dead" did not apply as it was during school holidays and there were many young families and children.